In What is Confidence, Really?, I talked about confidence and came to a generally accurate definition: “Being sure of something based on reasons.” Those reasons don’t have to be logically valid–and for most people they are not. But confidence is something we should all aspire to have. How do we get there?
In my first two years of college, I battled insecurities. Some of my “friends” actually brought me down routinely to try and make themselves look better, and I furthered the cause by focusing on negativity. My Junior year, I actively cut out the friends who were hurting my self-esteem, and made it a goal to figure out what confidence really is. Specifically, how to get there, and how to have it.
Through this, I noticed that when I was feeling confident about something, I was not worried about it, I was completely at ease with what was going on. I did not have scattered thoughts because I knew exactly what I needed to do and how to go about doing it. In short, I was comfortable.
With other confident people, I noticed that they, too, were comfortable. In fact, I could not find a situation where somebody was extremely confident and, at the same time, uncomfortable. They are inexorably intertwined–there is no way to separate them. When you’re worried about the outcome of a situation, you can’t really be confident that it’s going to work out because that worry comes from doubt.
The answer to this problem of insecurity was to become a master of comfort. I no longer told myself to “be confident,” because that’s a very complicated emotion to conjure up.
But comfort? That’s pretty easy: you just focus on relaxing your muscles, breathing deeply, and mindfulness.
You watch uncomfortable thoughts bounce around in your head and laugh at them internally.
You smile (because smiling will make you feel better), and you don’t make any fast movements.
You pay attention to what specific things agitate you, and you work on calming your emotional response to them.
You alter your subconscious reaction with controlled, careful, and patient thought, and eventually your subconscious accepts that you’re supposed to react that way. Eventually, you can train yourself to not be nervous, because you’re comfortable with your situation.
It is often that people try to address problems with very long winded and incomplete answers. Rather than get to the core of the issue that we’re dealing with, they notice a lot of surface level correlations and try to pinpoint specific things. A large section of the field of academic psychology is guilty of this, and is principally why I don’t agree with much of it. Most things in life can be completely explained when you understand some simple, basic, and sometimes hard to deal with truths. This is one of them. It is very simple: confidence is comfort, and comfort is confidence. The first step to figuring out how to implement it in your life is to understand that you are uncomfortable sometimes.
How You Can Use This Information to Make Your Life Better Right Now
Similar to How to Alleviate Anxiety, you need to develop a process that makes you more comfortable in specific situations. You get nervous, or scared, or uncomfortable when you sense that whatever is about to happen is going to threaten your ability to survive or reproduce. That’s why guys are terrified of walking up to a pretty girl, and that’s why failure feels so painful: because we care about our evolutionary instincts.
But in the 21st century, those instincts are mostly useless to our cause. If the pretty girl says no, you’re going to be in the exact same position in your life as you were when you walked up to her. If you fail, you have learned a lot of things that will help you succeed the next time around. But we are not comfortable with these facts, and that’s why we do not have confidence with them.
In fact, if you take the process of being comfortable very seriously, you will see results quickly, but just like everything else you need to keep doing it to make it a more permanent process. I suggest you spend ten to fifteen minutes a day by yourself, in a soul-searching, meditative mission to figure out how you can be more comfortable. Then you start to implement those methods when you’re out in the real world. Before you know it, you will start to say the right things almost automatically, you’ll make decisions more quickly, you’ll start thinking more clearly, and you will be happier.
But it all starts with putting in the work.